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'Such good people'

Friends describe JonBenet's parents as kind, generous and devoted to their family

Published January 12, 1997 at midnight

Shirley Bradley needed a job in the worst way.

The aging nanny was out of work and had nowhere to live. She turned in desperation to John and Patricia "Patsy'' Ramsey.

And even though their first child wasn't due until four months later, Bradley started working for the Ramseys the next day.

It's that good-hearted generosity that makes it hard for friends of John and Patsy Ramsey to connect them with the horror discovered in the basement of their luxurious Boulder home the day after Christmas.

The body of JonBenet, their beautiful, precocious 6-year-old daughter, lay in a little-used room behind a door that had been jammed shut.

The kindergarten beauty princess had been sexually violated and strangled.

No one has been ruled out as a suspect, not even John and Patsy Ramsey.

And that riles their friends.

"I'm so heartsick,'' said Nancy Turner Lawton, who dated John Ramsey in high school and college. "He is a kind and a good man and for this to happen to him makes me sick.''

John Ramsey's high school friends from Okemos, Mich., remember their classmate as extremely quiet.

They also recall that his ears stuck out so far it was easy to pick him out of a group photograph.

He brought his beautiful young wife, Patsy, to his 25-year high school reunion. Almost a decade later while having dinner with one of the groomsmen from his first marriage, Ramsey offered to pay for the 35-year reunion.

Lawton started dating Ramsey during their senior year in 1960-1961.

She often spent weekends with the Ramsey family — James "Jay'' Ramsey, his wife, Mary Jane Bennett Ramsey, and sons John and Jeff — at their summer cottage in Michigan.

She described them as a "reserved'' family of modest means.

Ramsey's father passed his love of flying, boating and golfing to his oldest son.

Jay Ramsey, a decorated World War II pilot who grew up in Omaha, Neb., was head of the Michigan Aeronautics Commission until he retired in 1979.

"They used to call him Czar Ramsey at the airport,'' neighbor Ethelwynne Gibson recalled with a laugh. "He really ran things.''

After high school, John Ramsey attended Michigan State University, where Lawton eventually enrolled. They dated three and a half years before deciding to see other people.

One day in art class, Lawton mentioned the breakup, and classmate Lucinda "Cindy'' Lou Pasch piped up.

"She said, 'I don't think you better say anything else. John asked me out this weekend,''' Lawton recalled. "It was just an unbelievable coincidence.''

Lawton cherishes the relationship she had with John Ramsey, with whom she has kept in touch.

Years later, their daughters were sorority sisters at Kappa Alpha Theta at the University of Miami in Oxford, Ohio.

"He was a quality kind of person, and everything in my relationship with him proved that to be true,'' Lawton said. "He was a complete gentleman.''

John Ramsey was president of Theta Chi fraternity. Cindy Lou Pasch was a Delta Gamma. They announced their engagement in December 1965.

They graduated the next June, John with a degree in electrical engineering and Cindy with a degree in elementary education. They were married the next month in Pasch's hometown in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Ramsey — a member of ROTC during school — became a naval officer and spent two years in the Philippines before getting his master's degree in marketing from MSU in 1971.

The family moved to Atlanta in 1973, where Ramsey had accepted a sales job with a California-based computer electronics engineering company.

John and Cindy Ramsey separated in 1977 and divorced the next year. Cindy Ramsey got the house, the 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass station wagon and custody of their children: Elizabeth, 8; Melinda, 6; and John Andrew, 11/2. John Ramsey got the 1969 Oldsmobile, the tape deck and generous visitation.

Cindy Ramsey, who has since remarried, has declined requests for interviews, as have their children.

Friends say John Ramsey was single for at least a year before he saw a stunning woman enter an apartment complex in Atlanta.

She was Patricia Ann Paugh, Miss West Virginia 1977, who won a talent award at the Miss American pageant for a dramatic reading she wrote herself.

"He ran (up) a flight of steps to try to see who she was, and she disappeared. But he eventually found her,'' Patsy Ramsey's mother, Nedra Paugh, told the Boulder Daily Camera.

Ramsey married Paugh in 1980 at the Peachtree Presbyterian Church near Atlanta. He was 37, she was 23.

For much of the 1980s, the Ramseys lived just north of Atlanta on a quiet street that dead-ends into a wooded glade near the Chatahoochie recreation area.

It was from the basement of this home that John Ramsey ran the fledgling computer company that would later become Access Graphics, and would make him a millionaire.

"He had a lot of vision,'' said next-door neighbor Joe Saportas, a computer consultant.

Patsy Ramsey became pregnant with their first child six years after they married.

That same year, nanny Shirley Brady found herself out of a job when two elderly women she had been working for had to go to a nursing home.

In desperation, she turned to the Peachtree Presbyterian Church and was referred to the Ramseys.

When she explained her predicament to John Ramsey, he hired her on the spot, although the baby wasn't due for several months. He remodeled their home to make an apartment for her next to the nursery.

"That's the kind of people they are,'' said Brady, who is 69 and lives in a retirement home in Americus, Ga.

Brady heard the couple leave for the hospital when Patsy Ramsey went into labor.

"The next morning Mr. Ramsey came dragging his feet up the stairs,'' she said. "He said, 'Well, we have a boy.' He was delirious. He was so happy.''

Burke Hamilton Ramsey was born Jan. 27, 1987.

John Ramsey told Brady he chose the name after dreaming about a man in a long, white robe with a book in his hand. That man said the child should be named Burke Hamilton.

Brady said John Ramsey's children from his first marriage were frequently at the home.

"They loved their daddy. And they were such well-behaved children and such high class. Their father dropped everything for the children,'' she said.

Brady only worked for the Ramseys for two years, but she kept in touch and shared Patsy Ramsey's excitement when daugher JonBenet — a French derivative for her father's name, John Bennett — was born Aug. 6, 1990.

"Patsy told me she was beautiful, but oh, I couldn't believe it when I saw her. JonBenet looked like a big doll with those long eyelashes,'' Brady said.

Neighbors Vesta and Charles Taylor considered themselves an extra set of grandparents to Burke and JonBenet, and visted often with the Ramseys.

"They just lived for those kids,'' Vesta Taylor said.

The Ramseys moved to Boulder in 1991 after his company merged with Boulder-based Access Graphics and another firm.

Patsy Ramsey was initially disappointed to leave her family, her friends in Junior League and the gardening club and her newly renovated home.

"She had just finished the back porch, and it looked like an Arabian tent,'' Brady said.

"But she would do anything for her husband. She was very proud that Mr. Ramsey was made president of the company.''

The Ramseys bought a 15-room mansion near Chautauqua Park that has been remodeled over the years.

While John Ramsey traveled extensively for his business, Patsy Ramsey threw herself into her son's school activities, planned lavish parties for their friends and busied herself with the renovation of the vacation home they had purchased in Charlevoix, Mich.

And Patsy Ramsey instilled her passion for beauty pageants in JonBenet. The two had become a fixture on the pageant tour. JonBenet wore elaborate costumes, sophisticated makeup and dazzled judges with her presentations, all under her mother's tutelage.

But tragedy hit the Ramseys in 1992.

John Ramsey's oldest daughter, 22-year-old Elizabeth Ramsey, and her boyfriend Matthew Derrington were killed in a traffic accident near Chicago when their car hit a bakery truck. The roads were slick, the Illinois State Patrol reported.

And Patsy Ramsey discovered she had ovarian cancer. Her husband insisted she receive the best treatment possible, and she was seen by cancer specialists in Bethesda, Md.

Her battle must have brought back horrible memories for John Ramsey.

His mother died of cancer when he was in his late 20s. Years later, John Ramsey's father, Jay Ramsey, married his first wife's mother, Irene Pasch, after her husband died. Jay Ramsey died in 1992 and Irene Ramsey has since remarried.

"We are grieving,'' is all Irene Wells of Sun City Center, Fla., has said since her step granddaughter's murder.

Shirley Brady called Patsy Ramsey on Christmas, the day before JonBenet was murdered. Patsy Ramsey was upbeat and excited.

She would turn 40 that Sunday. She had beaten the cancer. The family was leaving for Charlevoix for the New Year holiday.

And JonBenet was competing in the Little Miss Hawaiian Tropic beauty contest on Jan. 5 in Colorado.

"It's funny how you can get so attached to people who are so good and loving,'' Brady said. "They were such good people. Never a harsh word. Kind expressions to one another.

"I tell you, when I was looking down at the little girl in that coffin all these things come back in my mind,'' she said.

"There is no chance at them being guilty.''

Librarian Carol Kasel provided research, and staff writers Lisa Levitt Ryckman and John C. Ensslin contributed to this report.

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